One Track Mind: Gov't Mule "Perfect Shelter" (2004)

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by Pico

Covering High And Mighty about a year and a half ago gave me a convenient excuse to pull out and listen to some of the prior Gov’t Mule CDs. Out of the one just prior to this one, Déjà Voodoo, came a tune that has lately been the perfect ear food for the testosterone-charged seventies kid in me.

“Perfect Shelter,” like much of the Mule, harkens back to the day when pile-driving rock still had a whole lot of soul in it. When that element left hard rock, I started losing interest in it; bands like G.M. restore my faith in the genre.

Gov’t Mule is really singer/songwriter/guitarist Warren Haynes’ baby and this song is just another reason why that’s a good thing. The song is loaded down with just as funk and blues as it is rock, much in the spirit of Hendrix and early Funkadelic.

The demo-ish false start finds Haynes noodling around with a wah-wah while Matt Abts crashes about on the drum kit. After Warren counts off, the full band comes in dramatically with a cocky, mid-temp strut at high fidelity. Then-new bass player Andy Hess fills in nicely those huge shoes of dearly-departed Allen Woody, stating the main melodic line with precise, pulsing notes that allows Haynes to ad lib freely on his guitar.

The ad libbing is what helps gives the song an edge. His singing about some vaguely life-affirming message doesn’t get in the way but probably won’t connect with many listeners, anyway (Life’s around the corner, death’s grip is far behind/
Life can be sweet, wounds can start to heal
). It’s more about how he renders the message. Haynes possesses a soulful, powerful voice and many of the lines are synced with his weeping guitar; the plea “don’t, don’t, don’t put me in a box” while he matches it on the wah-wah guitar grabs your ears. Danny Louis’ organ stays in the background, adding just enough grease to keep to counter the harder edge provided by the leader.

The refrain “none of us has built a perfect shelter” is stated once the first go around, twice the second and four times the final time. Haynes seem to be trying harder and harder to get the message out to a reluctant audience. But listeners should be getting the message of damned good funked-up rock early on in this tune.

Listen: Gov’t Mule “Perfect Shelter”

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

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